A blockbuster U.S. Supreme Court ruling that last month gave married gay couples access to the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples quickly produced a deluge of developments as federal agencies raced to comply with the ruling.
But in the three weeks since the court struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples newly eligible for benefits are finding there are some limits to the momentum the ruling generated.
In some federal agencies, reaction to the ruling came promptly.
President Obama immediately directed the Department of Justice to work with other federal agencies to ensure the extension of spousal benefits to same-sex married couples was implemented "swiftly and smoothly" to comply with the high court decision.
The Department of Defense announced it would immediately provide the same benefits to all service members' spouses.
Federal immigration officials urged gay and lesbian husbands and wives of U.S. citizens to petition for previously prohibited spousal immigration visas.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management invited newly eligible federal employees to apply, mid-year, for spousal medical, life and retirement benefits.
Bob Holloway, a Sonoma resident and a park ranger for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, said he has received "a barrage" of email and memos instructing him and others in same-sex marriages how to apply for privileges now due them. He expected Tuesday to turn in the paperwork needed to extend coverage to his husband, Tom Laughlin.
"I'm so excited that, after 18 years of our marriage, that we're finally having the opportunity to share my benefit plan with him," Holloway said, referring to a commitment ceremony the two held nearly two decades ago, in advance of their 2008 wedding. "It can probably save us about $600 a month in what he's paying for private health insurance."
But two key federal agencies, the Veterans Administration and the Social Security Administration, are accepting claims but have yet to begin processing them. And it's unclear when any actual benefits might be doled out.
Experts say part of the delay has to do with statutes that govern those agencies' operations both in states, like California, that recognize same-sex marriages and in the 40 states where only marriages between a man and a woman are legally valid.
The Department of Defense, for instance, has said military personnel who were married in states that recognize same-sex marriage can receive spousal benefits where they live. They operate on a so-called "place of celebration" basis.
Others, including Veterans Affairs and the Social Security administration, embrace a "place of residence" rule, operating under regulations that deem a marriage valid if the veteran lives in a state that accepts same-sex marriage.
That distinction is critical for anyone who may wed and live in California, then move to a state that doesn't recognize their marriage, said Linda Shear, a certified public accountant specializing in tax preparation and planning for people in domestic partnerships and same-sex marriages.
"There's a lot of stuff we do know, and there's a lot of stuff we don't know," Shear said. "And the biggest issue is going to be the residence-versus-celebration."
Some have suggested an act of Congress may be required to amend the regulation in a way that would permit the VA to transition most readily to a post-DOMA era.